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PC World

MSN on Windows CE, cell phones, WebTV and Macs?

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 ALSO:
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MESSAGE BOARDS:
Microsoft
PDAs
Instant messaging wars
 

September 16, 1999
Web posted at: 1:37 p.m. EDT (1737 GMT)

by Alexandra Krasne

(IDG) -- Microsoft wants you to think different, or re-think how, where, and on what devices you'll be using its Microsoft Network Messenger instant messaging service.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced plans to take what it's calling the next step in delivering instant messaging through MSN, by making information available "anytime, anywhere, from any device."

Eventually, Microsoft plans to deliver its MSN Messenger service on Windows CE, WebTV Network services, and on Macintosh computers, and will ultimately beam instant messages to cell phones using MSN Mobile Services.

The mystery of it all is how and when the company plans to offer most of these services.

Mac support now, vision later

Starting today, Microsoft will offer a Mac-compatible client as a free download from the MSN site. This will give Mac fans access to the same MSN services offered to PC users -- the ability to see when friends are online, hold real-time conversations, and receive notifications when e-mail arrives in their Hotmail in-boxes.

With the exception of MSN for Macs, the other MSN plans are still "a vision," at this point, according to a company spokesperson.

MSN Messenger's estimated 2.5 million users will have to wait a while before MSN Messenger on Windows CE, WebTV Network services, and instant messages on cell phones become a reality -- since there are no release dates, and no details on how Microsoft plans to accomplish its vision.
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How does a vision become a reality?

Mark Levitt, research director at International Data Corporation, is a bit skeptical about Microsoft's plans. "Microsoft needs to ask, do these things make sense?" he says.

"Most handhelds don't have wireless communications capability," he adds. "If they (Microsoft) could think of some way to expand the wireless connectivity, that's relevant for CE. Which is not true for Web TV, which is always connected."

An e-mail service for handhelds, Levitt thinks, would have a more practical application; even he'd like to get e-mails on his Psion.

Microsoft for cell?

Microsoft must also battle the current cell phone model to make its vision a reality.

A Jupiter Communications survey indicates that "only 15 percent of personal consumer devices, such as cell phones, will be able to receive Internet content and services in the next five years."

However, Jupiter predicts that "about 15 percent of 35 million PCS handsets that ship to consumers in 2002 will incorporate a microbrowser and e-mail client. Content and service providers should leverage cellular service trials for cross-promotion with carriers' Internet service providers, forging alliances with wireless carriers for the future."

But is Microsoft going overboard?

"With their anytime, anywhere marketing strategy," Levitt of IDC says, "someone needs to say to them that it's overkill. Wireless connectivity is more important."


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